The process of updating the city’s Comprehensive Plan for the first time since 2012 is set to get underway next week.
The Planning Commission will host a special meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 25, starting at 6 p.m. in City Hall’s Council Chambers to begin a discussion of the review, according to Planning Director Jason Pezzullo.
He said the hope for the forum – which will also include Planning Department staff, members of the City Council and residents – is “that we all get on the same page in terms of what it’s going to take to do the public process and get started on the plan internally.”
“It’s going to be a lot of work to put together, and hopefully we get some good feedback from the public,” he said.
Cranston’s current Comprehensive Plan – a document meant to “guide future growth and change” in the city, according to its introduction – was approved by the state in 2012 after a roughly seven-year development process.
That 2012 approval, however, was valid for just five years, meaning the city has been operating without a state-endorsed plan since 2017. The state has since extended that five-year timeframe, making approved plans good for a 10-year period.
On city level, Pezzullo noted, the plan is “essentially evergreen,” with no associated expiration date.
In the years since the plan was last reviewed on the state level, Pezzullo said, a “whole new set of laws” have been passed through the General Assembly. Much of the focus of the upcoming review, he said, will be identifying which portions of the plan are valid and working and which need to be updated either to reflect the community’s wishes or comply with new state laws.
Pezzullo said the initial session on Feb. 25 will be focused largely on process over policy. At present, he said, planning officials intend to hole a series of six community meetings – representing each of the city’s wards – in the months ahead. Given that issues and concerns can differ significantly for various parts of the community, he said, the “very localized” perspective being sought through the forums will be especially valuable.
“We’ll spend the better part of this year doing public outreach … We welcome one and all to come and participate and be part of it,” he said.
Pezzullo said his department, which has seen significant turnover in recent years, has held off on the Comprehensive Plan review given the enormity of the task and a desire for new staff members to first become fully acclimated. Currently, the department plans to conduct the process in-house without the aid of a consultant.
“These are big tasks for our staff,” he said, noting that the work will involve intensive research.
Any submission of a new Comprehensive Plan to the state, Pezzullo said, is likely years away. After the initial set of public forums, he said, more gatherings will likely be held to focus on specific aspects of a new document. The state’s review alone, he added, promises to be a multi-year process.
The long road ahead, he said, makes it that much more important to get the ball rolling.
“We need to declare that we’ve started,” he said.